Honeymooning and High Adventure in Manali, India

FEATURED ARTICLES, INDIA, Interesting Towns, Skiing, WALKING/HIKING — By on July 27, 2018 at 17:56

Feature photo by Anuj.bhargava7 on Wikimedia Commons. “Waking up with this breathtaking scenic view of Manali from my hotel window.”

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ON THE BEAS RIVER, almost 340 miles northeast of Delhi, in the scenic mountain state of Himachal Pradesh, India, lies the small resort town of Manali.

With less than 10,000 residents, Manali lures you to forget the stress of big-city hustle and immerse yourself in adventure and the pleasures of eating and relaxation.

Manali is not only high on the map of India (being close to the northern border), it’s also high in elevation, being part of the Himalayas. It ranges from 5,900 ft in the newer part of town to 6,600 ft across the Manalsu River in Old Manali, where life is slower and less touristy.

Activities and adventures


There’s so much to see, do and eat in Manali, I can only touch on a few. Your own local explorations will uncover many more.

With its position in the upper central Himalayas, skiing accessed from Manali is among the most sought-after in India. Skiing happens in the Solang Valley, while various trekking adventures can be had in breathtaking Parvati Valley.

With its lush and undulating alpine meadows, the famous Bhrigu Lake (13,943 ft) is also accessible from trekking routes. Manali further serves as a gateway to rafting, paragliding, camping and backpacking adventures.

Camping in the mountains near Manali. Courtesy Aniket431 on Wikimedia Commons.

Camping in the mountains near Manali. Courtesy Aniket431 on Wikimedia Commons.

For your down-time, and to soak those weary muscles, you can visit the village of Vashisht, where tourists and locals revel in the rejuvenating warmth of the Vashisht hot springs (link opens to a video).

In 1954, roughly 20 square miles of land was declared a wildlife refuge. Manali Sanctuary is home to musk deer, leopard, snow leopard, two types of bear and herds of ibex. You can take a path through dense woods forested by a variety of trees, including Himalayan cedar (deodar), horse chestnut, walnut and maple.

Spiritually-minded adventurers can visit the Hadimba Temple, dedicated to the Hindu goddess Hadimbi Devi. The Tibetan quarter of Manali is home to a Buddhist monastery.

Eating and drinking in Manali


Many of the restaurants and cafes are multi-cuisine. You can even get pizza and tiramisu. If you’re looking for traditional Indian food, Shere Punjab serves butter chicken with butter naan—and that’s just one choice for Indian. You can also find Tibetan soups, sidu with chutney (rice-filled baked buns) and freshly-caught trout.

Butter Chicken with cashews, hot rice and butter naan rotis.
Courtesy Sriyarao22 on Wikimedia Commons.

Cafes are popular in Manali. Some of them sport playful or exotic names, such as Bob Dylan’s Cafe (delicious cookies and sandwiches), Cafe Zeppelin (out-of-town watering hole for paragliders, plus a good place to hear classic rock), Lazy Dog, Moondance and Shiva Paradise Cafe.

If you want to drink like a local, Wiki Voyage says: “Locals drink two kinds of alcoholic beverages: Lugdi (plains) or Chang (Himalayan), a kind of crude beer made from fermented rice or barley and Sharab (plains) or Arak (Himalayan), an alcoholic drink distilled from Lugdi/Chang. Arak can also be made from jaggery or apples or any other fruit.”

Because of the abundance of apple orchards, fresh cider can be easily found.

Wifi can be accessed in various cafes—including some of the cafes in Old Manali, despite its tradition of slow and quaint village life.

Popular for honeymooners


Manali has a reputation as a honeymoon destination. Accordingly, you can get a honeymoon package, including round-trip flights, charming Manali hotels, ground transport and sightseeing, for amazingly low prices.

If I were planning a honeymoon in Manali, I would definitely opt for Old Manali—the original village—blissfully surrounded by apricot, apple and pear orchards, ancient cedar forests and snow-capped mountains. Locals still enjoy living with their cows in traditional houses made of mud and wood.

Colorful traditional garb. Courtesy Igor Ovsyannykov on Wikimedia Commons.

Colorful traditional garb. Courtesy Igor Ovsyannykov on Wikimedia Commons.

Guest houses with their own cafes are a large part of the village charm, which embraces all nationalities. Be sure to stop at the Blue Elephant for French toast and a view of the river.

If you’re a honeymooner in Old Manali, you’ll be right at home if you sleep in every day. Village life only begins to stir late-ish in the morning.

Weather in Manali


As I’m writing this (poolside at my summer house-sitting job), it’s a blistering 111°F in Tucson, Arizona. Meanwhile, today in Manali the temperature is a lovely 68°F, with cloudy skies, barely a breeze blowing and chance of percipitation at 2%.

Despite the relief of cool temperatures in July, this is not the best time of year to visit. July to mid-September is monsoon season, when heavy rain and resulting landslides are common.

Manikaran Bridge in Parvati Valley, crossing the Parvati River. Courtesy Riturajrj on Wikimedia Commons.

Manikaran Bridge in Parvati Valley, crossing the Parvati River.
Courtesy Riturajrj on Wikimedia Commons.

October to February is their winter season, and the very best snowfalls are said to be in January.

For summer activities, the optimal time to visit Manali is March through June. Temperatures range from 50° to 75°F and snow remains only at high altitudes.

Getting to Manali


You can fly. Air India has regular flights from Delhi (nearest international airport) that will put you down you at Bhuntar Airport, 31 miles south of Manali.

You can drive. Manali is 350 miles from Delhi by car and by national highway. If you don’t care to do the driving yourself, you can hop on a luxury bus and catch up on your sleep during the overnight trip. There are also frequent bus runs during the daytime.

You can take a romantic train ride. The Kalka–Shimla Railway is a narrow-gauge train that will take you as far as the state capital of Shimla, former summer capital of British India. From Shimla it’s a scenic 8-hour drive to Manali.

Getting around in Manali


For roughly US$25 a day, an easy, relaxed way to get around Manali is to hire a tourist taxi. During peak season you can get a discount for booking three days.

A fun way to get around is to rent a bike or motorcycle. Wiki Voyage says: “Cruiser bikes like Bullet, and sport bikes from Honda, Baja and Yamaha are easily available.” Here’s an in-depth guide to help you get the best deal: How to Hire or Rent a Bike or Motorcycle in Manali.

Manali buses are known to be unreliable, though probably the cheapest method of getting around.

Accommodation choices


Manali hotels and other types of accommodations range from homely to the more luxurious. Guest houses abound, as do resorts, inns and cottages.

You can even opt for a home-stay. One example is a bungalow built during British occupation, surrounded by apple orchards and kiwi plantations. Nearby village residents tend the fruit crops.

The typical profile of a centrally placed hotel is nearby to the bus stand and within reasonable walking distance of the Buddhist temple, and only a short drive to the hot springs. The travel desk will arrange sightseeing tours at your request. Internet, parking and laundry service are all standard. Amenities in the rooms include cable TV, phone and room service.

Love, lust and charisma


There’s something for almost every type of vacationer in Manali. Honeymooners can let loose with their romantic sides. Backpackers, skiers and paragliders can express their lust for the outdoors. Culture and spiritual seekers can explore the temples, traditions and festivals. Even the mountains around Manali are said to have their own charisma.

There’s really no reason not to put Manali, India on your bucket list!


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